CAPE TOWN, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- China remained the leading growth market for South Africa's tourism industry, with year-on-year growth recorded at 38 percent last year, figures released on Monday showed.
The growth in tourist arrivals from China has been consistent over the year, following improvements in the visa application processes in those countries, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said.
South Africa can build on this and attract even more tourists from China and other countries, the minister said after Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) released figures which showed a sharp increase in tourist arrivals.
According to Stats SA, international tourist arrivals surpassed 10 million last year, 13 percent more than 2015.
This is well over the global average growth rate for the period. It is estimated that about 1.2 billion international tourists travelled the world in 2016, representing growth of 3.9 percent over 2015.
Britain remained the leading source market for overseas arrivals to South Africa in 2016 (447,840 arrivals) followed by the United States (345,013) and Germany (311,832).
Tourism is a significant economic sector around the world, and it makes a substantial contribution in the developed and developing countries. Tourism now comprises 30 percent of all global service exports.
In South Africa, the role of tourism in the balance of payments has become increasingly important. In 2015, tourism's trade balance with the rest of the world was 36 billion rand (about 2.7 billion U.S. dollars).
This is a major stabilizing force for the national current account, Stats SA said.
A survey by Stats SA has found that overseas markets are typically associated with leisure tourism and business tourism events, while regional markets, particularly cross-border land tourist arrivals, make an enormous contribution to the economies of many border towns, as well as major cities and popular tourist regions.
Together, the differing travel patterns and behaviours of the various travel markets sustain a large and diverse sector of businesses across South Africa, Stats SA said.
Hanekom commended all the people who are working hard in the private and public sector to develop and promote tourism, and to provide visitors with excellent service and memorable experiences.
"The spectacular growth in tourist arrivals indicates that the close collaboration between various government departments, between the Department of Tourism and industry, and between suppliers and service providers on the ground has paid off," said Hanekom.
"We have done well to capitalize on our status as a value for money destination, offering an array of experiences for all tourist markets," he added.
The latest Tourism Satellite Account indicates that tourism supported 711,746 jobs directly in 2015. The total number of jobs from tourism in 2015 (including direct, indirect and induced jobs) was estimated at 1.55 million, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Tourism touches the lives of all South Africans, Hanekom said.
"Given its importance to our economy, we must continue to nurture the sector and drive increasingly impactful and collaborative strategies and programmes for sustained, inclusive growth these markets in the future," he said.